Monday, March 21, 2011

Without Love

...nothing we're doing in ministry really makes sense.

Let's say we gathered a group of people together every week. We'll call it "church." These people sing songs, hear inspiring words from a holy book, eat and drink and pray with sacred rituals, and maybe spend some time chatting in the lobby. The people go through the motions, look pretty great on the outside, but there's something missing in their hearts.

Let's say we create a program designed for young people. We call the program "youth group" (or something similar). This program involves singing more songs, hearing more from the inspiring book, eating and drinking together, maybe watch a video or play a game. There's some friendly adults hanging around too. Students have fun, enjoy being with some friends, but leave feeling empty.

We can say all the right things, sing all the right songs, do all the right activities, have the best programs in town, and yet without love, it's not really what Christ has called us to do.

In Mark 12, Jesus gets asked a question: what is the most important commandment? It's a tough one. How could Jesus sum up all of Scripture, the character of God, and hundreds of years of religious practices in a simple statement? But his answer is simple and profound: love God with everything you are, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Not "show up to church every week." Not "have a really sweet youth program." Not even "read your Bible more." (Though he does say in Matthew 22 that all of the Law and Prophets--i.e. Scripture--depend on these commandments.) This command gets reiterated all throughout the New Testament, which is just a reflection of God's steadfast love recorded in the Old Testament. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, all our ministry actions are clanging cymbals and resounding gongs, that we're nothing without love.

I don't want to be a gong. But I could easily be one if Christ doesn't remind me of how much he loves me, and thus how much I am to extend that love to others.

One of my ministry values is "an environment of love." It's about fostering a culture of belonging, where people experience the radical and self-sacrifical love of Christ in their relationships, creating a grace-soaked environment. It's not fully attainable in our broken world, but it's a value I think reflects our future experience in the kingdom. I want every person--teen and adult--to both experience and express the love of Christ in everything we do as a ministry, and everything I do as a person. Jesus said in John 13 that people would know we're His disciples by our love for one another. I need to be reminded of that constantly.

Let's reject being gongs and extend the compassionate love of Jesus to the people we encounter this week.

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